Brazil presidency seeks to end crisis between Senate, Supreme Court
Brazil's presidency was working to defuse a constitution crisis between the Supreme Court and the Senate on Wednesday, amid reports the tribunal could allow the indicted head of the Senate to keep his post if he steps out of the presidential succession.
The Supreme Court was due to meet at 2 p.m. (1600 GMT) to decide whether to uphold or overturn an injunction by one of its justices ordering the removal of Renan Calheiros as Senate president, after he was indicted for embezzlement last week.
The removal of Calheiros would put a leftist senator in charge of the Senate whose Workers Party opposes a public spending cap that is the centerpiece of President Michel Temer's efforts to restore fiscal discipline to Brazil.
Calheiros, whose mandate in charge of the chamber expires when Congress goes into its Christmas recess in a few days, refused to step down on Tuesday, heightening a standoff between the legislature and judiciary.
"The President's office is working to reduce tensions between the judiciary and the legislature, and will respect the decisions they take," Temer's chief spokesman Marcio de Freitas said in a message to Reuters.
Calheiros is second in line to the presidency after the speaker of the lower house, as Brazil currently has no vice president. However, his term will expire when Congress goes into the Christmas recess and senators are due to elect a new president at the start of the next session.
The government is keen for Supreme Court justices to find a way around a recent majority ruling by the court that no person indicted for a crime could be in the presidential line of succession.
The Supreme Court has yet to complete its ruling on the ban. The vote was suspended after 6 of its 11 justices had already voted in favour of it because one judge asked for further discussion of the case.
Folha de S.Paulo and Estado de S.Paulo newspapers reported an agreement was in the works to allow Calheiros to end his term on the condition that he could not become president of Brazil in the absence of Temer or the speaker of the lower house of Congress, who is the first in line.
The overturning of the injunction to remove Calheiros would be a blow to the judiciary in a growing confrontation with the legislature over attempts by lawmakers to curb the powers of prosecutors and shield corrupt politicians.
Investors have been closely watching the situation amid fears that the crisis could derail the passage of a major reform to tackle Brazil's massive budget deficit. The Senate has suspended business until it is resolved.
The Brazilian real strengthened more than 1 percent in early trading as concerns eased that Calheiros' ouster could delay the approval of the constitutional cap on public spending growth. The benchmark Bovespa stock index rose 0.5 percent.
Senator Jorge Viana, who would head the Senate if Calheiros is removed, dismissed reports that he was considering resigning or that he would suspend all votes scheduled for this year if he were to assume the leadership role.
Viana, considered a moderate, is in a difficult position because his Workers Party opposes the government's austerity drive and wants him to delay the Dec. 13 spending cap vote indefinitely.
If he did that he would be widely criticized for deepening Brazil's fiscal crisis.
"I am not thinking of resigning," he told CBN radio. Viana said he was trying to mediate a solution to the crisis with members of the Supreme Court that involved Calheiros staying.
"I am very hopeful that the justices will find a middle road to resolve this," he said.
- Renan Calheiros
- Supreme Court
- Michel Temer